Sweet potato vines are the classic "spiller" plant for container gardens, and rightfully so. They are easy to grow, beautiful and spill satisfyingly over the edges of containers and down the sides. They are available in a wide array of colors--almost black to chartreuse to tri-colored--and there are several leaf shapes.
Sweet potato vines are in the same family as edible sweet potatoes,Ipomoea batatas, but they have been bred for the beauty of the leaves rather than the tubers. While the leaves of the edible sweet potato are delicious and a delicacy, when they are young and tender, eating the leaves or ornamentals isn't recommended. While they probably won't kill you, the ornamentals are not meant to be eaten so the taste of the leaves and tubers can be bitter or bland.
You can plant sweet potato vines in full sun to partial shade. They thrive in well drained soil and need to be fertilized during the growing season.
If sweet potato vines can get unruly. They sometimes attempt container domination, in which case they need to pruned back. Sweet potato vines can also become victims of the golden tortoise beetle which is a very cool insect. It looks like a teardrop of molten gold has landed on your sweet potato vine and it will munch holes in your leaves, which can pretty soon look like Swiss cheese.
You can also easily propagate sweet potato vines. Simply break off a branch, making sure there are several leaf nodes. Take off all leaves on the bottom 3-6 inches and submerge stem in water. In a few days you should see roots. This is a good way to overwinter sweet potato vines--they will last all winter in water--so you have some to plant out in the spring.
Some of my favorite varieties are:
- Illusion® 'Emerald Lace' and 'Midnight Lace' These are bred to be better mannered then most sweet potato vines, while vigorous, they are not trying to take over the world.
It's also fun to grow your own sweet potato vine from a sweet potato. While it won't be as stylish as the ornamentals, they are still beautiful fun and easy to grow. You can also eat the leaves and grow other sweet potatoes from the sprouts, also called 'slips'.